The travelers guide to surfing in Colombia
Updated: Nov 4, 2022
In Colombia, there seems to be something for just about everyone. No matter where your interests lie —the possibilities for an active, outdoorsy stay are practically endless.
Usual visitors love navigating the dense, uncharted jungles of Colombia and the Caribbean beaches while culture junkies lose themselves in the big capitals. The cuisine is flavorful, and its people are known as the happiest in the world. Yet the one thing you don’t see that often?
Surfing, yes! Surfing in Colombia. The country isn't exactly famous for its surf scene. It's in fact one of the most unvisited surf destinations on the planet but it has really big potential.
Why go surfing in Colombia? As the only South American country with long coastlines that reach both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, you can find great waves all year long. A perfect destination for surfing that won’t stay hidden for long. The world is slowly but surely beginning to realize that.
In addition, when such a diverse country with a rich culture recognized for its coffee, music, and uncharted jungles, it's only natural that all these elements combine themselves and create the most amazing experience for anyone who visits. The hidden travel gems that exist throughout the country, create a lifetime of memories that will leave you wishing to come back.
Pacific Ocean , Caribbean Sea, Orinoco Savannah, Amazon jungle and Anden mountains are five spectacular natural regions, which Colombians always have been close to. Surprisingly, although the country is blessed with more than 3000 miles of coastline, the surfing community is just starting to grow in recent years.
The best time to surf in Colombia varies depending on where you are, but the Caribbean coast offers surfing from December to May, while the Pacific has a longer wave season, from April to October.
The Caribbean coast
The Caribbean coast is more accessible to travelers than the isolated Pacific beaches. You can find here more beachgoers and pleasure-seekers.
The Northern Caribbean boasts picturesque beaches and an abundance of surf camps. You'll find yourself spending a great deal of time on those white sandy beaches. Camping and hiking opportunities are just down the road, giving you the opportunity to dabble in other forms of adventure as well!
The Tayrona region has conditions that create waves suitable for all levels, as well head high during some months. Starting a surf trip or visiting a surf camp there is something you should not miss. This region is one of the most beautiful ecological sanctuaries and richest archaeological zones in Colombia. Framed by lush and virgin forests, its protected terrains have long been awarded as some of the world’s most beautiful and exotic landscapes. Formed by the glaciers and snowy peaks of Sierra Nevada, its rivers, which ultimately drain into the Caribbean Sea, nurture lush environments inhabited by a variety of birds, monkeys and herds of Indigenous communities settlements. The diverse climates offer a unique backdrop to a wide range of attractions from white sand beaches bounded by huge rocks inside the sea, mangroves, and coral reefs in the crystal blue waters of the Caribbean sea to dry forests to the highest coastal mountains the world.
Punta Roca in Barranquilla, Palomino in La Guajira, Las Velas in Cartagena, Los Naranjos in Tayrona or Isla Fuerte next to San Bernardo del Viento – among others – are just some exciting surfspots at the Caribbean coast, where waves can be found during swell season between December and May. Those looking for more party and action in and outside the water should visit Pradomar beach, Malecón, Arepita Point or Mahalo beach arguably the most popular beaches next to Barranquilla...but with good reason. The breaks can be extremely fun and enticing, especially to those who are of all levels. The area is full of a variety of bars, hostels, discos, water sports and makes for a well-rounded surf vacation. With everything from stand-up paddle boarding to kite surfing, in this area it’s all possible.
In Cartagena de Indias, world heritage site since 1984, you can combine culture and surfing. Discover the waves in one of the most wonderful Colombian cities, admire the architecture from the Spanish Colonial era, sunbathe on the beach, or visit one of the beautiful islands just 30 minutes by boat. Go surfing before or after the many activities you can enjoy there. Most surfspots in Cartagena, are one in a series of man-made protective barriers that entice surfers and locals alike. During the Hurricane season, you can expect between September and November waves get bigger with some barrel sections at the Castillo Grande beach.
A quick 30-minute jaunt outside of Cartagena is the town Galerazamba. A place where the bright, deep blue color of the Atlantic Ocean meets the magically beautiful pink water of the Salinas, known as the pink sea! Here you can find also consistent and uncrowded waves. Make a short stop to see the salt mines, a truly hidden gem.
Just a 4 hours drive from Cartagena, you can find some of the longest waves at the Caribbean sea in Isla fuerte. When the surfspot is pumping, advanced surfers will have a lot of fun. The waves break over a coral reef, making it almost perfect. Crystal clear and warm water, this is Colombias Bali, nothing to envy.
The Pacific coast
As if it were a legend that passes from generation to generation, there are many stories about the Pacific coast, but only a few know its full potential. The so called, unexplored surf paradise, this region is considered Colombias final frontier. It takes a while to get to there, very selvatic and virgin, a true delight for those who love a challenge. Accessibility is one of the biggest factors keeping the crowds light here.
The population is small and varied. Mainly Afro-Americans and indigenous people live together and the occasional tourist or foreigner who dared to live there, disconnected from everything. But there are several things to see. Indigenous communities, waterfalls, jungle, animals, desolate beaches and a lot of contact with nature. Getting there is difficult. First you have to fly to Medellín or Bogotá and then take another shorter plane to the Chocó area. If you travel with boards, you have to be aware because the flights that go to Nuquí are less frequent and the planes are smaller, with which there is the possibility that the boards will not arrive with you, but will be sent on another plane later. That’s why it is so important to have a good to plan ahead before traveling. We recommend to hire a surf trip organizer, so you can travel without worries. There are some experts, who knows how to travel there. Call Luis, from Newtours Colombia, or write him a short WhatsApp: +49 17620462604, he will set up everything up on your behalf.
The infrastructure is developing, you can find excellent accommodation options for all budgets: Ecolodges, hostels or local farm houses perfectly placed to go surfing every day, by foot or by boat. Travel to and from the surf breaks can be expensive (some areas are only accessible by boat, and gasoline for automotive costs a pretty penny), so it’s advisable to join a group and split the cost — and hire a guide that knows the area.
While you're here, make the most of your stay in the middle of the jungle. Nuquí, Termales, Bahia Solano and Arusí acts as a headquarters for surfers in the area, providing basic comforts like food, water, and Wi-Fi. But leave time to explore the rest of the beaches in this area, too—they're some of the best surf spots around!
Bahía Solano is more of a beach break with a sandy bottom, but it has some very large rocks on the coast that sometimes cannot be seen at high tide. In Termales und Arusí there is more variety. Some spots can be reached by walking along the coast, but the best waves for advanced surfers are at Cabo corrientes, half an hour away by boat. The waves there are mostly long lefts that break on rocks parallel to the shoreline. Yes, you have to go by boat and at the moment there is no land access and no people are seen in this area. For the more advanced surfers there are some sections that break quicker and you can catch an occasional tube and for the others there is a open section where the wave stops well on the while droping and then becomes very a friendly surf. Pico de Loro, Juan Tornillo, Jurubirá, Terco, Terquito are just some of the surfspots in in the region — each with their own currents and character. You'll find jungles all around, so birds and other animals are likely to be your only competition, like the great humpback whales during whale season between June and October.
The wave season in that area is from April to October, with the south swells. From May to August would be the best time and you should not miss it. Although in the last years, November and January were also experiencing some good waves. It's not common but hey, those things happen and from time to time nature gives you a North swell.
Surfing here means, 100% contact with nature. A place where the ocean meets the impressive Chocó jungle.